A Federal Judge Just Stepped Up Big to Protect Women From an 'Underhanded Law'

A Federal Judge Just Stepped Up Big to Protect Women From an 'Underhanded Law'
Source: AP
Source: AP

A Louisiana law that may have closed every abortion clinic in the state was set to be enacted today. But thanks to a federal judge, it's been stopped in its tracks — at least temporarily.

The law, signed back in June by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, requires any doctors who perform abortions to obtain patient admitting privileges from a hospital within 30 miles. Any who don't would face potential shuttering of their clinics by the state.

While U.S. District Judge John deGravelles allowed the law to be enacted, he's now temporarily removed the punishments, meaning Louisiana's abortion providers can stay open while they apply for admitting privileges (and, for three of the five clinics in the state, sue over the law).

The reaction: The move was met with praise from pro-choice activists, who argue admitting privilege requirements to be unfair and often unlawful burdens on abortion providers.

"Today's ruling ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. "As the flimsy facade of these laws grows thinner by the day, we continue to look to the courts to uphold the Constitution and protect access to safe and legal abortion for all women regardless of where they happen to live."

The view was different from the other side of the issue. Louisiana Right To Life executive director Benjamin Clapper told the Wall Street Journal that the ruling was a minor setback, adding, "The legal process is far from over."

Governor Bobby Jindal signed the law back in June.Source: AP
Governor Bobby Jindal signed the law back in June.  AP

The reasoning: Admitting privilege laws have become a favorite way for anti-abortion activists to crack down on their states' providers. Proponents say the laws keep women safer, since they may have to be taken to a hospital if the procedure goes wrong.

Pro-choice activists counter that hospital visits are very rarely necessary, and that abortion doctors (especially in the South) often come in from out of state to practice, making it hard to obtain admitting privileges. "Admitting privileges provide no increased benefits for the fewer than 1% of abortion patients who experience complications," the Center for Reproductive Rights statement says. "Furthermore, privileges can often be impossible to obtain due to individual hospital policies or biases toward abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors' qualifications."

The Center for Reproductive Rights joined the three clinics in their lawsuit opposing the law. They argue that the burden it places on abortion doctors is great enough to violate Roe v. Wade. Since Louisiana is far from the only state having this debate, a ruling either way would have a huge impact on nationwide abortion access.

h/t Huffington Post